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Ten Minutes to Live (1932)

 -  Drama | Musical | Mystery  -  March 1932 (USA)
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Ratings: 4.2/10 from 73 users  
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A movie producer offers a nightclub singer a role in his latest film, but all he really wants to do is bed her. She knows, but accepts anyway. Meanwhile, a patron at the club gets a note ... See full summary »



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Title: Ten Minutes to Live (1932)

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Complete credited cast:
Lawrence Chenault ...
Gary Martin
A.B. DeComathiere ...
Anthony (as A.B. Comathiere)
Laura Bowman ...
Ida Morton
Willor Lee Guilford ...
Letha Watkins
Tressie Mitchell ...
Charlotte Evans
Mabel Garrett ...
Ida Groves
Carl Mahon ...
Galle De Gaston ...
George Williams ...
Lorenzo Tucker ...
The Godfather
William A. Clayton Jr. ...
Donald Heywood ...
Master of Ceremonies


A movie producer offers a nightclub singer a role in his latest film, but all he really wants to do is bed her. She knows, but accepts anyway. Meanwhile, a patron at the club gets a note saying that she'll soon get another note, and that she will be killed ten minutes after that. Written by

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Musical | Mystery


Not Rated




Release Date:

March 1932 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ten Minutes to Kill  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs



Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The dancers in the nightclub scene were actually chorus girls from the world-famous Cotton Club in New York City. See more »


Featured in The American Experience: Midnight Ramble (1994) See more »

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User Reviews

58 Minutes of Confusion
23 November 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"Ten Minutes to Live" was one of the first Oscar Micheaux films to emerge in modern times; it was first discovered by AFI in the 1970s. At that time, very little else of Micheaux was known to exist, and at the time no modern film scholar had seen anything like it, nor was it generally known that anything like it had been made at all. At the time, "Ten Minutes to Live" seemed so unique and out of the ordinary that such critical notices as were written tended to be charitable. Nevertheless, those who then saw the one, terribly battered print of "Ten Minutes to Live" weren't sure what Micheaux was up to; whether it was some kind of art film or some species of genre that they did not recognize. Fast forward four decades and we know a lot about Micheaux and the kinds of films that he made, and "Ten Minutes to Live," in that context, has suffered badly. It is clear now that the film is a failed narrative; in fact, two narratives drawn from an alleged short story collection entitled "Harlem After Midnight." The tales are called "The Faker" and "The Killer" and the front title promises three stories, but the film delivers only two. Perhaps Micheaux' later film "Harlem After Midnight" constitutes the third story not shown here. In any event, Micheaux never published these stories and it is difficult to make out from this film what exactly the narrative was.

Time has not brought us a better print, and the one we have shows the telltale intrusions of censorship. In the first story, a fellow who claims to be a wealthy producer or something-or-other turns on the charm with several women. He tells one singer he can only pay her $3.25 a day to appear in a talking picture, and that appears to have been about the daily budget that Micheaux had to make "Ten Minutes to Live." There are so many ellipses and shortcuts that you can hardly tell a story is being told at all, and in the first part it so frequently interrupted by vaudeville acts and cutaways to non-speaking characters that you wonder who is actually participating in the tale told. The dancing, though, is all excellent, if not always shot to the best advantage, and in one scene the girls are crammed into a space so tight that they can barely move. Donald Heywood and his hard-working band are definitely an asset to the picture, even when their music is cut into little bits and shards, or interleaved with snatches of Beethoven symphonies. It is not completely foolproof, however; at one point a musician loses his music off the stand, and in yet another the whole band loses it place in the music, with the violinist diligently leading them back to the head.

Despite the front title card's assertion that this is an "All Talking" picture, the second story, "The Killer," is strictly a part-talkie, and plays for most of its length silent. One wonders if this was something Micheaux had made earlier as a silent and merely added to "Ten Minutes to Live" with a few talking scenes added. Overall, as a film it is far more interesting than the first part and contains several beautiful visual touches, but these are mostly in the silent filmed sections. Once the sound returns, conversation is heard while a character, ostensibly in hiding, is seen overhearing and reacting to it -- for a very long time.

While "Ten Minutes to Live" is not Micheaux' best effort by a long shot, it is also not his worst, and it would be his weirdest if "Swing!" didn't exist. If you approach it as a kind of arty affair and enjoy the dancing and music, you still might get something out of it. If you try to follow "Ten Minutes to Live" as a conventional story, however, you will get hopelessly lost. Not all actors are credited, and some are here credited incorrectly; some appear to be playing more than one part in the story, and there are lots of silent-style subtitles and letters to make things all the more mystifying.

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